I am a mother, a partner, daughter, sister, grandchild, a friend, an employer, a business owner and on March 17th, 2020 I became an essential service worker. Today our Province moves to Phase 3 and after 129 days of uncertainty, I somehow feel liberated. Liberated enough to share how much of an impact having the word “essential” added to my designation and upon reflection, how grateful I am for the experience it gave me.
Of all the roles I have had in my life, this new one pushed me out of my comfort zone almost immediately. When our Premier, Doug Ford made his first announcement that we were closing businesses and people were urged to stay home, I was bewildered like so many others…how is this real? Seeing my industry in plain text on the list of essential service businesses posted the next day became a stark reality that I wasn’t closing shop and staying safe inside with my family. I would also need to ask the same of my team. I knew this new title was going to supersede every other role in my life, but never did I anticipate how it would bring me to such a dark and scary place while trying to be a torch bearer for the people who relied on me for direction.
You see, I am an accountant and to the business world, we are often referred to as the lost leaders. The ones that make you reflect on the bottom line rather than the fruits of your labour. We remind you of your spending, of your tax bill and how this quarter’s numbers weren’t as strong as your last, your taxes are due, where are your receipts?, you can’t write that off, sign here, and then we hand you an invoice. We have a position in the business world that is undeniably important. We do what you can’t or don’t want to do… a “necessary evil” I have been told. I have many experiences with clients over the years that has reaffirmed the importance of a trusted accountant in their world. I had always felt essential to my clients and have said the same to my team but the word essential beside my business industry, now confirmed by our government was a whole new ball game. All at once I was doubting my self-righteous sense of importance while having to muster the strength and courage to confidently make the announcement to my team knowing they needed a strong leader. I gave the speech about the “opportunity to serve” and we can do this, and like every challenge I’ve ever been given, I was determined to make damn well sure I lived up to being essential.
There would be no drive-by parades of people honking, nor would there be signs littering yards thanking us for the hundreds of extra hours we’ve worked. These extra hours were spent answering calls of concern from terrified business owners that merged into nights spent trying to do the taxes that were still left to be done, loan and grant applications that necessitated lifelines for business owners and so on. Amongst this, there were many self-talks as I tried to sound positive while trying to hide the fear that was tightening its grip on me almost by the hour. Unanswered texts and phone calls received from loved ones added feelings of guilt from having to focus every morsel of energy I had on this task rather than taking time to stay connected to the outside world. That guilt would consume me almost every time I tried to fit sleep into this pattern. The gut-wrenching fear that would suddenly grip me at random times in the day, questioning whether I was putting my staff at harm, tanking my business or doing the right thing had me tangled with feelings of anxiety like I have never felt before in my life. I wanted to be the best, I wanted to manage it all. I wanted to breathe and not feel a lump in my throat because I’m now essential dammit and that means I should be better. Why am I not being better? I spent hours telling stressed out business owners that they would make it through this, that they were doing the right thing…we can transfer from this account, apply for this subsidy, your team will understand that you have to do temporary lay-offs and most importantly, I am here if you need someone to talk to…You will be okay! But, from the dark recesses of my mind, whenever there was a moment of quiet, the sinister voice of terror would snicker…but will you?
I am not okay. I am working on it. Today is the day our new normal is supposed to begin. The re-opening of the majority of our Province and here I am.
Without a doubt, I am a little weary with a few bruises and possibly a mild case of PTSD… but we’ve made it this far and do you know what I learned through these manic feelings of fear and inadequacy? I learnt that I was better because of these feelings. That every painful moment of self-doubt, anxiousness and concern was helping me stay present and relatable to those that were needing my support. It made me stronger without even realizing it. It gave me a chance to see how many incredible people I have in my life who are willing to carry me when my legs give out and that I work for some of the most incredible entrepreneurs and individuals I could ever ask for. It made me realize that after spending almost 20 years in this industry that I really love my job and the role I have in people’s lives. I love sharing in their journey, I love that they reach out to me when they need guidance and that no matter what, I am not ever going to be a “lost leader” and I pity the next person who jokingly suggests me as one ever again LOL.
Although I cringed each time, I heard our Government leaders overuse the phrase, “We are all in this together”, on the first day of our new normal, I really believe that we DID get through this together. We are changed…Every. Last. One. Of. Us.
I wanted to share with you my ramblings of a non-life saving, essential service worker as I start the journey of healing and re-establishing the other roles that I cherished prior to my new designation. To connect with others out there who didn’t put their hand up to stay behind while the media told us everyone was safer inside. For those of you who struggled with making decisions about the future of your business, I wanted to make sure you know you weren’t alone with those thoughts. For those of you who were on the other end of the phone, on video chat or reading my posts on tax updates, thank you for allowing me to focus on what being essential means and hopefully, once you realize that I was just as scared as you were, you can feel confident that we really are in this together and true partners in success. To all the employees who rallied together and were told that they too were essential and they needed to trust in their employer to keep them safe while finding a renewed strength day after day to wear a brave face for their colleagues. You were asked to juggle family life, home schooling and still put in a solid days work. I want you to know that your employer thought of you more than you realized; that they struggled day in and day out about your well-being and often wondered if they were being the leader you needed. Were you were going to be okay? Would you forgive them for these unprecedented expectations? You see, we are not always as strong as we try to make you think we are. Your loyalty and unwavering work ethic is what kept our companies afloat and we, the business owners will never be able to forget that.
Today most of you are either back to business or re-opening with some uncertainty of what tomorrow brings. It’s a brand-new bag of challenges bestowed to the lucky entrepreneur who now gets to think about PPE, social distancing and networking without meeting anyone face to face. It’s not normal to us now but it will be. Like every other challenge we’ve faced as entrepreneurs…we will now take that fear and use it as the fuel that keeps the fire in our hearts burning to keep doing what we love and push us ahead.
I want to thank my wonderful partner for reassuring me constantly that he and my children will still love me despite my absence over the last few months. To my entire team for showing me that they are willing and able to stand firmly as a united front through even a storm of this magnitude, I thank you. I thank you for your commitment to making a difference in our client’s lives and for the daily inspiration and care you brought to me during this pandemic. To my family, friends and cherished associates, your understanding and continued messages of love despite my inability to respond at times has been appreciated and reminded me that I was loved on days when I felt so empty. To those of you that took the time to read this, I hope you allow yourself the opportunity to reflect on the last 129 days and find your silver linings in making it this far through the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020.
Stay healthy in both body and mind. We’ve got this my friends!